Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

California Sheephead

Semicossyphus pulcher


Fun Facts

    All sheephead fish are born as females.

    This fish begins life as a female, but may become a male later in life.



Found in kelp beds and rocky reef areas, sheephead grow up to 3 feet in length and can live up to 50 years.  A member of the wrasse family, sheephead change sex from female to male during maturation (at about 1 foot in length or 8 years of age).  Males are identified by their black tail and head, while females are all red.  Males are very territorial and are often observed chasing away any smaller males.  Large males often have 10 to 15 females within their territory. 
Sheephead feed on sea urchins, mollusks, lobsters and crabs using their prominent canine teeth to pry and crush.  Their pharyngial teeth continue crushing as they swallow.  Considered very good eating, their numbers have declined drastically off Southern California.
California Sheephead are usually found at the Aquarium in tank numbers 16, 21 and 33 and in the Tidepool Touch Tank.